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The Brexitization of European Politics

Support for or opposition to Brexit is increasingly supplanting party affiliation as the defining factor in British political identities. Beyond the United Kingdom, Brexit and the future it represents are forcing all Europeans to make clear what they believe in.

BRUSSELS – Far from settling the question of the United Kingdom’s future, the 2016 Brexit referendum and subsequent negotiations with the European Union have triggered a full-blown identity crisis and culture war in Britain. Two years after the UK electorate voted by 52% to 48% to withdraw from the EU, it is safe to say that former Prime Minister David Cameron’s ploy to settle a long-running niche debate within the Conservative Party has backfired spectacularly.

Brexit has left British political and social life more divided than ever. While the Brexiteers are peddling increasingly divisive – even violent – rhetoric, hundreds of thousands of “Remainers” recently marched through London, calling for a “people’s vote” to approve whatever exit deal the government proposes.

According to a new report from the UK’s National Center for Social Research, support for or opposition to Brexit is increasingly supplanting party affiliation as the defining factor in British political identities. Specifically, the researchers find that, “Nearly nine in ten members of our panel said that they were either a ‘Remainer’ or a ‘Leaver,’ whereas less than two-thirds of them claim to identify with a political party.”

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